I hurt myself yesterday. My right ring finger is currently swollen and sore, and has an unusually limited range of motion. It doesn’t hurt to use it for typing, but there is pain when I try to use it for scrubbing. Consequently, I probably won’t be doing much cleaning today. Housework can be dangerous.
I was doing housework when the spectacularly stupid injury occurred. I had stripped the sheets off of the bed so I could wash them. There are six pillows on my bed and I put them on the floor so I could get everything off of the mattress. I also have a backrest that I use when I sit on the bed to watch TV. It has a handle on top of it.
As I was making the bed, I reached down to get one of the pillows so I could replace the pillow case. The top of my foot somehow got caught in the handle on top of the “husband” backrest and I lost my balance, suddenly hurtling forward. Instinctively, I put up my right hand to protect my face from hitting the sloped wall so common in Germany.
My right ring finger hit the wall with so much force that it hyperextended backwards. The sudden wrenching of my phalange led to copious swearing and a massive endorphin rush.
I can’t really tell by looking at the finger that it’s injured. There’s a little shadowy bruise on the backside of the digit and there’s a bit of swelling that is only obvious to me. It doesn’t hurt quite as much today either, although it’s hard to straighten it. I’m relieved about that, since I couldn’t help but remember something that happened to my late father at the end of his life. He almost lost his middle finger after injuring it while he was dreaming. My dad suffered from post traumatic stress disorder due to being abused by his father and spending too much time in a war zone. Dad was deployed to Vietnam, and was profoundly affected by what he did there.
I have read that when people are dreaming, most of the time their muscles are so relaxed that they don’t function and they’re pretty much “paralyzed”. This is what keeps most dreamers from acting out while they sleep. However, the “paralysis” that stops people from acting out their dreams doesn’t always work. Besides having PTSD, my dad also suffered from several sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and REM Sleep Behavior Disorder. So he would have vivid dreams that would cause him to jump out of bed, scream, shout, and throw punches. One time, when he was sleeping, he threw a wild punch and hit the wall, which really hurt his finger.
Unfortunately, he didn’t take proper care of the injury, and the finger got badly infected. There was some talk that he’d need to have it amputated, but fortunately the injury eventually healed. I remember being freaked out that my dad might need to have his middle finger removed. Then I was reminded of another funny story involving my dad and middle fingers.
Back in 1983, the Waterside was opened in Norfolk, Virginia. In the early days, Waterside was a really cool place to shop. It had a lot of unique stores and restaurants. My parents took me to see it, even though we lived somewhat far from Norfolk. I was about eleven years old at the time.
One of the shops we visited that day was a hat store. They had all kinds of funny hats in there that ranged from the elegant to the profane. I remember laughing uproariously at a baseball hat that had a felt dog on the brim, passing a plastic fire hydrant. You pulled a little plastic string, and the dog’s leg would lift on the hydrant. I think I begged my mom to get it for me, but she refused. My dad, on the other hand, ended up purchasing a black baseball cap that had a yellow felt hand on the brim that formed a middle finger salute.
Despite his 22 years in the Air Force, my dad was never big on profanity. I think it was because his alcoholic and abusive father swore a lot and his mother, whom everyone adored, never did. Consequently, in 1983, my dad was unaware of what displaying the middle finger means. He showed the hat to my mom, who did know what it meant. She was shocked that he would ever buy such a hat, and she said, “You’re not going to wear that hat in public, are you?”
“Sure, I am.” Dad replied. “I’m gonna wear it to Rotary.”
Mom said, “No, you’re not going to wear that!”
“Yes, I am! I’m going to wear it to my next Rotary Club meeting and say, ‘I don’t agree with any of you!'”
“Do you know what that means?” Mom asked, completely aghast.
“Doesn’t it mean ‘go to hell?'” Dad asked, starting to look a little worried.
“NO!” Mom said, leaning over to whisper in his ear.
She needn’t have bothered trying to protect my virgin ears, since I was watching a lot of HBO and already had a very advanced dirty word and gesture vocabulary for a kid. As many people who know me realize, I still use vulgar language with pride. That hat wound up underneath the driver’s seat in my dad’s ugly bright orange VW van. He never wore it anywhere, yet didn’t throw it away for the longest time. I wish I had pilfered it from him. I’d wear that hat with glee at any pro Trump rally.
When I heard that my dad might lose his middle finger due to injuring it, I couldn’t help but laugh at the memory that he’d once bought a baseball cap with a middle finger on it, not knowing that the middle finger is a very vulgar hand gesture that, if flashed at someone in Germany, can actually lead to arrest and/or fines.
I’m not going to need to have my finger amputated. It’s just going to hurt for awhile. Sometimes I have a habit of thinking of worst case scenarios, which causes unnecessary worry. I don’t think this injury is going to affect me for too long, although it may be awhile before I can straighten my finger properly again.
Most injuries are caused by something stupid, like tripping on the handle of a backrest. Who would have thought that something that was supposed to make life easier would cause me to fly into a wall and hyperextend my finger? Too bad it wasn’t my middle finger. At least then, I’d have a funny story.